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Dateline NBC

News/Business. Keith Morrison, Josh Mankiewicz, Hoda Kotb. Investigative journalism. New. (CC) (Stereo)

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TOPIC FREQUENCY

John 16, John Sohus 13, San Marino 11, California 11, Boston 8, Chichester 7, Paris 7, Usaa 6, Coffman 6, Linda Sohus 6, England 5, London 4, Petsmart 4, Us 3, Dana 3, New York 3, Malibu 3, Christopher 3, Karl Gerhartsreiter 3, Vidal Sassoon 3,
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  NBC    Dateline NBC    News/Business. Keith Morrison, Josh Mankiewicz,  
   Hoda Kotb. Investigative journalism. New. (CC) (Stereo)  

    April 17, 2013
    8:00 - 9:00pm PDT  

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this guy knows something. >> a young couple vanishes, then nearly a decade later, a discovery in their own backyard turns the mystery into a murder. >> they find a bag, and inside the bag is a human skull. >> detectives had a suspect. then he disappeared too. >> his trail had just stopped. >> until this. >> please, please bring snooks back. >> he kidnapped his own daughter right from this very street after claiming to be a rockefeller, clark rockefeller. >> i had a private investigator try to find out who i was married to, and they couldn't find out. >> now a second chance for
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investigators to prove that this mysterious conman was also a killer. but was the case as clear-cut as it seemed? >> there was no motive. there was no reason he would have done this. >> for the first time, hear from the detectives who helped crack this puzzling case and from his ex-wife. >> i thought he was very intelligent, funny, very charming. >> for decades, he got away with a web of lies. would he also get away with murder? >> i can fib, certainly, but i have never hurt anyone. >> tonight the mystery of the man with so many faces. i'm lester holt, and this is "dateline," behind closed doors. here's mike taibbi. >> it was a brutal crime, buried over the years by dirt and lies, but there he was finally in a los angeles county courtroom to stand trial for it all. >> he came here with nothing,
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and then he ended up as a fake rockefeller. >> the world first came to know him as a phony rockefeller, who made headlines for duping a string of bright, if gullible women. >> they couldn't tell me who i was married to. >> as followers of his story came to know, he used his awed audacious talent for lying to live the good life. but was he something else, something darker, something evil? >> adds up to the picture of a guy who's probably committed a brutal homicide. >> those inside the investigation reveal how they assembled a case for murder from shards of evidence scattered over 28 years and thousands of miles. >> there really isn't a smoking gun. it's a lot of pieces to the puzzle. >> would the pieces come together to form a portrait of a killer? >> if you're looking for a setting for a mystery, san
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marino wasn't the place, and the house since rebuilt hardly the ideal stage. that's where quiet john sohus lived. >> he was probably reasonably shy and reserved. >> patrick was john's childhood friend. he remembers john as a bit of a momma's boy, and as he was, a bit of a nerd. >> john and i shared a love of star trek. >> i have not been able to gather sufficient data for that. >> we would try to outtrivia the other individual, compare theories about warp speed travel. >> you guys are middle school kids and talking about warp speed failures. >> well, without advanced mathematics, but yes. >> eventually, john's enthusiasm for science fiction morphed into a passion for another galaxy that was suddenly accessible in the '80s, computers. the nerd became the prototype for today's tech geek, a digital explorer living happily at home with his mom well into his 20s, and then he discovered love. >> did you sense a connection
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between the two of them? >> i certainly had the sense that they were soul mates. >> her name was linda. like john, she loved science fiction and fantasy. >> linda's pal sue coffman said they complimented each other, as opposites often do. he was shy, she was outgoing. he was short, she was tall and towered over them. a quirky couple who just clicked, laughingly choosing halloween as their wedding day in 1983. with money tight, they started their life together living in the house on lorraine road. sue remembers linda complaining about john's mom didi, who liked her cocktails early and often on many days. >> his mom is a drunk and a smoker, and i really don't like being around her and the smoke and everything. she's a cool old lady, but i just try and avoid her like crazy. >> but linda and john couldn't avoid didi because the guest house on the property where they might have set up house had a
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tenant. >> she goes, we can't live there because that's where the renter is. i'm like, oh, renter's paying money. you guys can't. renter gets the better place. >> with the renter in no hurry to leave and a newlywed stuck in the main house, john and linda focused on their careers. they proudly made their first major purchase, a new truck. >> they were so happy when they showed up at my house. i don't even remember if they called first or actually just drove up one day and said, look, we're in a car. >> with a new ride and a bit of money, they planned a first road trip with sue, to a big sci-fi convention in phoenix. in early 1985, weeks before the event, linda called sue with a puzzling announcement. >> first thing was we're going to new york. i'm going, what are you going to new york for? well, john looks like he has an interview with a government job or something. >> she says, we're going to be back in two weeks. >> yeah, we're going to be back in a couple of weeks in time for us to get our stuff together and get this trip on the way. >> except they didn't make it back in time.
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when the weeks rolled on with no word from her friend, sue naturally began to worry. she called john's mother, didi. >> she was like, i don't know, they're in paris. and i'm thinking paris, california. and he goes, i don't know, paris, france. she's just three or four sheets to the wind. and i'm just kind of like right. >> and something else made no sense at all. you see, linda had abandoned her beloved cats at a pet hotel. >> her cats were her absolute love of her life. she would not have left her cats of her own free will. >> linda's family was along too and filed a missing persons report. when san marino police followed up by visiting john's mother didi, she told them the same strange story. >> didi said they weren't missing. they were on a job interview that was secret. >> jim miley and delores scott are detectives with the los angeles county sheriff's department. >> kind of weird on its own that didi said my son and his wife are on this secret job interview?
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>> i mean, she truly believed that he was off on a secret mission job, and that's what she had been told. >> it was so odd, were the young couple missing or not? an officer knocked on the door to the guest house where didi's tenant lived. >> so he went back there to get some more information as to what he might have known about linda and john. in fact, he came to the door naked. >> buck naked? >> buck naked. >> the tenant in his birthday suit said his name was christopher chichester but had nothing to say about john and linda. there was nowhere to go with the missing persons case, not then, but something was about to change with the question that hung in the area and wouldn't go away. where exactly were john and linda? >> and who or what was really behind the missing couple's secret mission? that's what everyone wanted to know. when we come back, that mysterious tenant living like a peasant with a royal pedigree.
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>> he said he was here by himself and was descendant of some royalty in england. >> when "behind closed doors" continues. can gravity be usedcer ] to help overcome gravity? the chevrolet malibu eco with eassist captures downhill energy, unleashing it later to help propel you uphill. it adds up to an epa-estimated 37 mpg highway... ...and helps defy gravity and gas pumps. ♪ that's american ingenuity, to find new roads. right now get a 2013 chevrolet malibu eco for around $169 per month.
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john had told his mother a crazy story that it was a secret job that had taken them away to france. postcards started arriving. sue got one of them. >> i said, answers. >> maybe she had been wrong to worry. maybe john's mother had been right all along. >> i just thought, she's off
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somewhere weird for whatever reason. i kind of played with the idea of witness protection. >> the postcard suggested that john and linda were gone voluntarily, no foul play. then john's mother suddenly changed her tune. >> in july of 1985, didi calls the police, and now she's distraug distraught. >> distraught because her guest house tenant had moved out without a word, and as she now explained, he was the one telling her secrets behind closed doors. it turned out it was chris chichester, the very man who went to the door in the nude and had nothing to say had all along been feeding her information. >> was she concerned the man in the guest house was involved in what happened to her son? >> she didn't know. she was just concerned the only person she was contacting them through was missing now too. she was concerned because she had no way to contact her son. >> the guest house tenant, a source about a secret government mission? chichester's friends around san marino back then might have just
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thought it was another one of his fantastical stories. lisa gallegos and dana fer ar knew chichester as an eccentric character. >> he was funny. >> he was very interesting to talk to on many subjects. he knew a lot about things. he was witty. it was a lot of fun to hang out with him. >> a film student at usc, he told dana, often walking around campus with a script or two under his arm. >> we'd go to old films together. we'd talk about films. >> one of the films you saw together was "double indemnity," about a guy the ploiplotting a . >> good-bye, baby. >> this is the best movie, dana. we have to go see "double indemnity." >> he was a minor british royal, a baronet, said the business card he handed out around san marino. >> what do you think a baronet was? >> that's the funny part. i had no idea.
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>> she didn't question it, and neither did worry woods. >> he said he was here by himself, didn't really have a family, said he was from england and was the descendant of royalty from england. >> cory and her family were thoroughly impressed by the young aristocrat. he would dazzle them with stories after their church services. >> he bought a castle in england, and he wanted to ship it over here brick by brick so he could have an authentic english chapel. >> the charming young brit also became the resident raconteur, sometimes hosting parties at lorraine row, oddly while he lived in the guest house. dana said he seemed to have run of the entire party. >> i said to him, why do you keep going in your landlord's house, chris? it just seemed so off. he said -- i remember this so well. he said, oh, they're away. they will not mind. >> and, of course, they, john and linda, were away with only drunker didi isolated in the main house.
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and after chichester the tenant left, she was an old woman racked by loneliness and lost hope fading fast. >> you want to talk about taking what wind was in her sails out of those sails and leaving her in the doldrums, it certainly did. >> she died a few years later, by many accounts, a broken woman. in san marino meanwhile, life went on. the lorraine road property found buyers, and in may 1994, almost a decade after john and linda disappeared, the new owners decided to install a pool. they cleared the old backyard and started digging until the work suddenly stopped, and police were summoned to the scene. >> and they said that they discovered a body. well, initially, of course, we thought, this couldn't happen in san marino. >> krista guf was a san marino detective when the human skeleton was found. >> we said, hey, there was a missing person at that arrest. there was a lot of information coming together on that first day. >> it was a man's skeleton, and
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that old missing persons report suggested who that man was. >> i didn't need the dna. i didn't need the dental records. i knew that was john. >> john sohus' friend, sue coffman, heard the del taytails how the body had been dressed, jeans and a plaid shirt, and the truth hit home. >> i said that was the way john dressed all the time. that was the way he liked to dress. >> the remains told the rest of the story. blows to the head, six stab wounds in the back. not just murder, about but a brutal murder. a missing persons case that had gone permanently cold was transformed in that moment to a very active super heated homicide investigation. there were two other people who lived at lorraine road then and were unaccounted for, john's wife linda, still missing, and a tenant in the guest house. exactly where were they, and was it possible one of them was a killer? >> coming up, detectives get to work on that guest house to see
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if it had any clues to give up. it did. >> we found four pretty large blood spots. >> when "dateline" continues. new vidal sassoon pro series. care and styling from the original salon genius, created to let you have it all at an affordable price. new vidal sassoon lets you say no to compromise and yes to very shiny... very silky... very sexy... very you. it's salon genius in a bottle! now in your store. new vidal sassoon pro series. salon genius. affordable for all. new vidal sassoon pro series. ♪ ♪
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se habían encontrado huesos, el
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it was a 24-hour news cycle and a body buried in a backyard. it was newsworthy. >> there was no question it was murder. if john had been killed and buried in his own backyard, were linda's remains in a shallow grave of their own? police looked but found no signs in the yard. >> found nothing? >> the thing is, after all that, they had one body and nothing else. >> two key questions remained unanswered. where was linda, and where was the other person who lived on the lorraine road property then, the guest house tenant, christopher chi chester? >> early on, the police decided they needed to find linda, and they needed to find chris. there was only a couple of options for how john's body got back there and how it got buried, and those two options were unaccounted for. chris and linda. >> either one of them might have done that or certainly would know something about who did it?
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>> it was imperative that they find them. >> in any homicide investigation, the spouse is a natural suspect, often the first suspect considered. and linda was a large woman who could conceivably have overpowered her husband. but as police started interviewing anyone around town who knew any of the occupants of the lorraine road property, tips about the guest house tenant, christopher chichester, piled up quickly. tips suggested that he was the one police should be looking at. even those once friendly with him now recalled him in unsavory terms as a manipulator, dana ferrare said, always up for the next free lunch. >> he would show up at my apartment, mm, that smells good. after a while, i just kind of kicked him out. i was like bye. >> more weird stories of the 20-something chichester sometimes hit on younger girls. cory woods said he asked her out when she was only 12. >> and my mom said a very definitive no.
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and then after that, you know, it got a little weird, and he started asking other inappropriate girls out. >> not age appropriate? >> not age appropriate. >> some dusty old stories, remains very nearly a decade, not a great start for a murder investigation, but that guest house was still standing, and detectives got to work to see if it had any clues to give up about the man who once lived there. >> we did a luminol in the guest house, and they found four pretty large blood spots. >> they couldn't tell if it was human or animal blood, but detectives thought the spots could be evidence of violence from years earlier, and they also learned something else that the guest was important. >> a detective in san marino had made a connection that the tenant in the guest house had the victim's truck. >> the truck had been john and linda's prize possession. before they went missing in 1985, they planned that first
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big road trip in it. years later, after they vanished, it was traced to connecticut and to the guest house tenant. >> why would he take the missing person's, couple's truck, and the truck would end up in connecticut. >> and what's more, records show he changed his name from the baronet christopher chichester, to christopher crowestreet, and found he was no royal, not even a brit, but a german national now racing through new identities like someone bent on covering his tracks. >> and that's when he disappears. >> he just in the wind again? >> right. >> and with that, the murder investigation stalled. the years went by, and in san marino, they might have forgotten all about poor dead john sohus and his missing wife and about the oddball tenant for the lorraine road guest house had it not been for this. >> authorities search over land and sea for a man and his 7-year-old daughter.
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>> a family drama playing out on a leafy boston street in the summer of 2008, a custody battle that became a national story because of the name at its center. >> a man who calls himself a rockefeller. >> one of america's famous names, of course, but it was the face that got everyone's attention back in california. krista had retired as a detective by then, but she gasped when she saw the photo. >> when i looked in the newspaper, i knew it was him. >> could it be? could the fugitive with the famous name on the east coast be the same wanted for a forgotten crime? was there now a way to awaken the long dormant case of the murder on lorraine road? >> coming up, a rockefeller accuseded of murder. >> oh, my god. this is really an answer. it may not be definitive, but this guy knows something. >> when "behind closed doors" continues. copd makes it hard to breathe...
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the news out of boston was crazy. a head scratcher that screamed front page. >> a bitter divorce, a bizarre kidnapping, a famous last name. >> it all seemed worlds away from the decades old murder case in california, john sohus, who had gone missing with his wife linda. but for some the link in boston was related to the long forgotten murder. >> some at the party recognized him, and so did his old neighbors in san marino. >> what the fbi's wanted poster did was set off these sparks of recognition. people knew that clark was chris. >> clark rockefeller -- yes, he said, one of those rockefellers -- appeared to be the latest and boldest
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reinvention yet of the guest house tenant who's slipped under the radar ten years ago. it was an audacious lie now unraveling nightly on the 6:00 news. the story line was this clark rockefeller had been divorced after 12 years of marriage to a big money business consultant named sandra boss, and in a bitter custody battle after his quiet life of privilege, he kidnapped their little daughter, nicknamed snooks, and gone on the lam. for the love of his daughter, the narrative went, he risked everything. >> the sympathetic mother pleaded on national television for her daughter's return. >> i ask you now, please, please bring snooks back. >> she wasn't much help to the fbi because, like the public, she said, she had no idea who her husband really was. the conman had been passing himself off as a rockefeller in high society circles for well over a decade. >> is then i said, clark rockefeller and put his picture up there, and i almost fell off
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the elliptical machine. >> socialite roxanne remembered meeting clark rockefeller at a manhattan art gallery. >> he had been very polite and a gentleman. >> rockefeller, her new gentleman friend, liked to send weird and provocative text messages, one sent, he claimed, while he was giving a private tour of the metropolitan museum of art. this one, "in a submarine, crowded, strange. thought of you just a minute ago." >> the texts were so wild and so farfetched, i would just giggle and go where does he come up with this stuff? >> there was something odd about him, but his name -- >> one of my friends could have sworn he was definitely a rockefeller because of his bone structure. >> it was a convincing cover that had lasted years. but by the time he was caught, six days into his flight with snooks, the fraud was exposed, and his real name, christian karl gerhartsreiter, in every front page top of the news cast story. in california, investigators
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immediately reopened the john sohus homicide case, and the leads started pouring in. >> we got a lot of phone calls. a lot of people that did not come forward in '94 came forward in 2008. so there were some new pieces of information that we got as a result of the publicity. >> for sue coffman, best friend of the still missing linda sohus, it was reason to hope after all these years. >> oh, my god, this is really an answer. it may not be definitive, but this guy knows something. >> if he did, he certainly wasn't telling the police, but he did have plenty to say to nbc's natalie morales in his only televised interview. >> are you a mystery man? >> i'd like to be known as a good man, if anything. i like to be known as a quiet man living a quiet life. >> he admitted using a string of fake names, chris chichester one of them. >> you assumed different identities? >> yes, but for a specific purpose, much like a writer to
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take a pen name. >> but what about the murder of john sohus? did he have anything to say about that? >> did you kill john and linda sohus? >> my entire life, i've always been a pacifist. i'm a quaker. and i believe in nonviolence. and i can fairly certainly say that i've never hurt anyone. >> when i saw that, i thought that was the closest thing to a confession i had ever seen or heard. what do you say, did you kill john and linda sohus? >> i think you say no. >> but you don't say, i'm a quaker. >> even as clark rockefeller's kidnapping case played out in boston, the california investigators were quietly at work building a case for murder. >> so we basically had to do cpr on this case and just get it up and running. >> to resuscitate the case, they went back to find those folks who had known the suspect when he was calling himself the 13th
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baronet, christopher chichester, to the episcopal church, where he'd worked his charms after sunday services. one man remembered chichester asking to borrow a chain saw. and now dana ferrare told the detectives something that seemed like key evidence. during one of chichester's backyard trivial pursuit parties, she noticed a part of the lawn looked like it had been freshly dug up. >> i said to him, what's with your yard? what's happened to your yard? and he just said, well, i'm having plumbing problems. >> detectives were astounded at the implications. >> at that point, he's taking ownership of the grave because that's exactly where john's body was found. >> and detectives poring over the evidence from the washington kidnapping case found this. reason to believe their prime suspect had totally rebooted hids identity after san marino. >> in boston, we found some documents and computer hard drives. his life begins roughly in 1988. >> what does that tell you? >> i would say it's some
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evidence of a consciousness of guilt, of trying to erase part of one's life. >> but detectives couldn't erase the nagging questions about linda, the victim's wife. was she still alive? remember those postcards from paris? she had apparently sent them all after the couple had disappeared. >> you also couldn't eliminate the wife who's also missing and whose remains or body had themselves not been found? >> yes. that obviously is something that we had to look at. however, the more we dug into linda sohus, we just couldn't find anything sinister or any plausible reason why she would do this or that she had the means to disappear and start a new life. >> was the case trial ready? the answer was at hand, with christian gerhartsreiter extradited from boston to california, now officially a defendant in a case of murder. >> coming up, the woman he wooed and followed as clark rockefeller takes the stand. how he tricked even a harvard
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mba. >> i liked him. i thought he was very intelligent. and funny. quirky. very charming. >> when "dateline" continues. [ male announcer ] here's a fun fact: this single scoop of gain gives more freshness than a whole box of this other stuff... and that much freshness is gonna take some getting used to... [ sniffing ] ahh. mmm! [ male announcer ] yep, it's amazing what a single scoop of gain freshness can do.
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the state of california knew it was a high stakes gamble to
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try and prove a trial, but the conman calling himself clark whose real name was christian karl gerhartsreiter. after all, the case rested heavily on pieces of circumstantial evidence 28 years >> it was going to take a smart jury to put those together. we didn't have a smoking gun. >> gerhartsreiter pleaded not guilty and hired a pair of prominent boston attorneys to defend him, jeffrey denner and brad bailey. >> there was no motive. there was no reason he would have done this. >> we are on the record in the matter of people versus gerhartsreiter. >> still, when the trial opened last month, prosecutor habib offered a series of friends and neighbors from around the time that john and linda sohus disappeared. jurors learned about the bloodstains found years later inside the guest house and then testimony from a neighbor suggesting the tenant had been trying to destroy possible evidence. >> i called him and said, chris, what are you burning in the
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fireplace? >> what was his response? >> i'm burning carpet. >> when church friends said the defendant had tried to sell her a rug with a strange spot. >> i thought it was a little like blood. >> whose chain saw was it? >> it was mine. >> they heard the story about the borrowed chain saw. now, what did that mean? >> for approximately how long, to the best of your estimation, was it that he had this chain saw? >> several months. >> and dana ferrare took the stand to describe the party the defendant hosted just yards from the dug up patch of soil. >> it looked like someone had dug up the lawn, and there was crumbled dirt on top like someone had just been digging there. i said, what's going on with your yard, chris? it's all dug up. >> what did he say? >> he said that he had been having plumbing problems. >> there is no plumbing to the left of that red line. >> he has a party, hosts a party feet away from where he buried a victim?
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>> yes. i can't explain it. but he did. >> but perhaps the strongest piece of circumstantial evidence tying the defendant to the murder was this. john sohus' skull had been found wrapped in two plastic university book bags, one from usc, the other from the university of wisconsin at milwaukee. >> and during the background on gerhartsreiter, he had attended both those universities. >> a physical connection finally between the conman's real life and those bones in the ground. more evidence? after his san marino days, after the murder witnesses said, the conman was no longer the expansive raconteur eager to work the room, but was instead living like a fugitive. >> he told me he was from pasadena, california, that his father was an anesthesiologist, and his mother was a child actress.
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>> in the late '80s, mihoko manabe lived with the defendant, then calling himself christopher crowe, an unusual guy, manabe testified, who became paranoid and obsessed with privacy after a detective called about the truck traced to his latest phony name, john and linda sohus' truck. >> after the call, he was markedly different. >> how was it markedly different? >> the furtiveness, the cutting off of all social ties. >> the defendant told manabe it wasn't a detective who called, but someone out to get him and his family. she said he suggested they marry and go into hiding. >> he grew a beard and mustache. >> what else? >> and he started to wear contacts. i helped color his hair. >> and while he was still living with manabe, he picked a new phony name out of thin air, and it was a beaut. at first it was to get a table in a packed restaurant.
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>> they say, who can we make the reservation for? and he says, clark rockefeller. >> manabe dumped him, but he never dumped the rockefeller name. it would help win his biggest catch ever, his gold plated wife sandra boss, and keep his secret safe for years. >> who did he introduce himself to you? >> clark rockefeller? >> did you ever doubt what he was telling you? >> in hindsight, i wish i had, but no, no, i assumed what he was telling me was true. >> sandra boss had spent the years since that public kidnapping case shunning the limelight, doing everything she could to get as far from her ex-husband as possible. she even moved overseas to london with their daughter. but now as a witness to the prosecution, she would have to divulge details of their life together, details the prosecution hoped would show how she'd been used as a cover, unwittingly help a killer hide in plain sight. >> i liked him. i thought he was very intelligent and funny, quirky, very charming. >> the stanford graduate told
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how back when she was getting her mba at harvard, they clicked while play acting at a clue themed party. >> you were supposed to come as a character, and i was miss scarlet. >> was the defendant in character? >> yes. >> who was he? >> he was professor plum. >> what did he tell you about himself? is >> he said that he was raised in new york, that he grew up in a townhouse on the east side, sutton place. he went to yale beginning at 14 for math. >> did he claim to you association with the well-known rockefeller family? gl yes. >> how so? >> constantly. this rockefeller doesn't like me because i got angry with him when he was a child at a party. >> they married in 1995 -- or did they? according to boss, she later learned that rockefeller had figured out how to tie the knot without leaving a paper trail. >> we went through a wedding ceremony in the quaker meeting house in nantucket.
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he claimed at the time that he had filed all of the paperwork so that it was recognized as a legal marriage except that he hadn't done so. so it wasn't. i'd never been married before. i didn't really know how these things worked. so idiotically didn't think about it. >> the prosecution suggested that, with his marriage to boss, the conman had hit a double jackpot. she earned north of $1 million a year, giving her house husband and stay at home dad control of the lavish family budget. >> is that your signature? >> yes. he said it was more convenient for him to pay the bills if he had checks that were signed. >> and with no bank accounts of his oin own, he could live the life of a rockefeller in boston's insular beacon hill, where few were likely to ask awkward or incriminating questions. >> he was very clear right from the start that he had a high need for privacy because of his famous family.
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>> boss recalled that he stopped traveling by plane once i.d. was required, and perhaps most telling for the prosecution, she testified that her husband vowed to never go to two places -- california, where john sohus was murdered, and connecticut, where police had once looked for him in connection with the sohus' truck. >> i do not enter the state of connecticut. i will touch my feet on its soil. he was very specific about connecticut. >> what about california? >> california, he also said that he hated and would not visit. >> but deep into their marriage, his life of carefully crafted invisibility began coming apart, melting away with lie after lie, says frank gerardo, who's written a book about the case. >> he told her that his mother was really a child actress by the name of ann carter. and she said, wait a minute. when we first met, you told me your mom's name was mary. now you're telling me your mom's name was ann carter. >> did you just put your finger
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on the fatal flaw, that in the end, he just couldn't not lie? he couldn't help himself? >> this man, clark rockefeller, couldn't keep his lies straight. >> by then, sandra boss told the court, her marriage was in serious trouble, headed toward divorce. but the private investigators she hired were stymied over a basic question. >> they couldn't tell me who i was married to. >> eventually, she and the world found out who clark rockefeller really was, and prosecutors believed they'd made the case that he was more than just a conman, he was a murderer. >> christian karl gerhartsreiter, he's guilty of murder. >> but the defense was ready to attack each item of damning, but circumstantial evidence, and to point the jury to the figure hovering over the case, the more likely suspect, the defense would argue, the victim's missing wife, linda. >> coming up, remember those postcards signed by linda and sent from paris? >> that points the theory that linda was alive after the death of john sohus. >> and if she was alive, was she
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a six-man, six-woman jury was all that stood between clark rockefeller, and freedom. he was nearing the end of his prison sentence for kidnapping
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right off their client was a fraud and an oddball. >> this man used different names since coming to the united states in 1978. >> but attorney brad bailey said none of that made him a murderer. >> this had nothing to do with covering up a 28-year-old homicide. and everything to do with perpetuating this recreation. >> in court, they attacked the forensic evidence as weak and mostly nonexistent and got the prosecution's own experts to admit that. speck of dna to tie the defendant to the victim, the bloodstains, or even the university book bags. >> that is correct. i did not detect a dna profile. >> the defense also challenged the neighbor who testified that she saw blood on a carpet the defendant had tried to sell her. had she really?
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>> and you don't know that that was blood, do you? >> not absolutely. >> another challenge, this one to detective tim miley. what about that chain saw the defendant supposedly borrowed once upon a time? >> is there any allegation in this case that this chain saw was used in connection with the murder or disposal of the body of john sohus? >> no. >> none? so your answer is, no, there's no proof of that? >> there's no proof of that. >> and in the absence of proof, the defense offered an alternative theory of the crime, another suspect, their stepping stone toward reasonable doubt. the still missing linda. >> we're going to ask you to envision whether john sohus' missing wife might have had just as much capacity to sneak up behind her husband and strike those blows? >> the defense pointed out that she was bigger and stronger than both her husband and the man in the defendant's chair. what's more, the theory went, she, the wife, might well have had a motive. while even the prosecution
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declined to suggest any reason why the defendant wanted john sohus dead. >> it made a lot more sense in terms of motive, in terms of reason to kill, that linda had been the one to have done it. >> wasn't there trouble in paradise, the defense pressed the couple's friend sue coffman, linda desperate to move out of her mother-in-law's house? >> you knew that linda was frustrated about the living situation, and those are words that you have used, correct? >> yes, she was frustrated. >> she shared that frustration with you, didn't she? >> yes, she did. >> coffman seethed and side, appalled at what was being suggested. >> i'm like, dude, you're so far off base that i can't even answer your questions with anger. so i'm just going to answer your questions. >> but it wasn't just a motive, the defense said. wasn't it also clear that linda had survived whatever had happened to john? since she was the one handwriting experts had said had sent postcards to friends weeks later from paris.
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>> linda sohus is the writer of the two postcards that you examined? >> yes. >> that supports the theory that linda was alive after the death of john sohus. >> as for the testimony of sandra boss, tales that seemed to suggest their client was the most clever conman alive, well, why would so nimble a schemer commit such a crude murder, burying his victim's remains in plastic book bags from universities he'd attended? >> that person would also be one of the stupidest murderers in the history of southern california to be this master con, master manipulator, mastermind they make him out to be. he's going to kill somebody, bury them ten feet from where he lives, essentially leaving a plaque saying, hey, guys, it's me that killed him. enough doubt, the defense thought, if not for acquittal, but to at least hang the case. but prosecutors were ready. they'd examined and eliminated the linda did it theory, and just before trial, they thought they'd solved the mystery of those postcards she supposedly sent from paris.
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the conman, they would show, had someone in europe mail them for him. he'd done it before. a college girlfriend producing a postcard he supposedly sent to her from london. >> england is great. >> we know that he was attending an english class at university of southern california. >> he wasn't in london? >> he was not in london. so that explains away the postcards. so that explains away the postcards. >> the evidence was in. and though much of it was damning, it was almost all circumstantial. the defendant, his lawyers said, was confident on verdict day. >> he went into the courtroom feeling upbeat, hopeful, and optimistic. >> it was a miscalculation to say the least. the jurors took only a few hours to decide. >> we, the jury, in the above entitled action, find the defendant, christian gerhartsreiter, guilty of the crime of murder in the first degree of john sohus. >> a guilty verdict reached quickly, jurors said, and with little debate. to sue coffman, it meant most, if not all of the answers, about
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what happened to her lost friends john and linda. >> in my heart, i know he's responsible for whatever happened to make those two gone. >> are you convinced that linda is dead as well? >> yes. >> to the end, he'd insisted his lawyers privately call him clark, as in clark rockefeller, and they did. but the man who'd invented that name and so many others, who spent his adult life convincing others to believe his lies and to like him and reward him for those lies, failed on all counts to a jury of his peers. >> unfortunately, there was an interaction here of somebody they instinctively hated, didn't understand. >> they didn't like him at all? >> they hated him, and they were laughing at him openly. >> he faces a sentence of 25 years to life. he'll know in june. not a the fiing end for a rockefeller, perhaps, but for a liar who is also a killer, maybe just right. >> that's all for this edition
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of "dateline." we'll be back again next wednesday at 8:00/7:00 central. i'm lester holt. for all of u. at nbc news, good male narrator: in the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous. in new york city, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the special victims unit. these are their stories. - svu is 84. domestic shots fired. we're waiting at the scene for esu. - copy that, svu. - please, don't hurt me! - the hell with waiting. - [shrieking] - police! - hands up! move away! - bitch, you better bounc - where the guns, bitch? - whoa, whoa, whoa! back up! do not resist! - detective. [gun cocks] - [chuckles] got you, amanda. - don't laugh, fin. you were next. - svu detectives tend to see women as victims. you turn your back-- - no, we get it. lieutenant, we up next? [claps] let's rock and roll.